Last week, I talked about how pretty planners aren’t necessarily productive planners, and I mentioned that I use a modified version of the Bullet Journal®.
Since then, I’ve heard from a few of you who are curious about bullet journals but have no idea where to start with one. Empty, blank, and unlined pages can be intimidating, which is why I put together this list of things that I keep track of in my planner:
1) Monthly and Weekly Calendars
This is one of the core elements of the Bullet Journal when used for productivity. You can either draw a calendar with a box for every day, or make a linear list of the dates with the day of the week and record that way. This gives you a quick view of what’s going on in the upcoming month, and you can create a separate view for the week ahead.
2) Daily Schedule
Drill down in your calendar even further and make a page that includes your schedule for the day. I also like to include tasks and a space for notes on my daily pages.
3) Task Lists
I like to have a few different task lists in my Bullet Journal. I have a master task list for the upcoming month, then each week I pull things out of that list that are a higher priority. As I finish the top priority tasks, I go back to my master list and pull out the next batch of most important things. At the end of the month, I make a new master list for the new month and carry over anything that didn’t get completed the month prior.
This process helps me focus on just a few things at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed or jump aimlessly from one thing to another.
4) Project Planning
When I have a project to take care of, I dedicate a page (or pages) to it. I’ll write down the name of the project, the purpose of it, and all the tasks that needed to be done to complete it. I’ll also include any deadlines, team members, and notes of reference. I check things off as they’re finished, and take notes along the way where needed.
5) Trips & Travel Planning
Just like for projects and events, you can have a dedicated group of pages for an upcoming trip. Record the destination, travel dates, lodging options and rates, reservation numbers, flight information, etc. so it’s handy. Then make your packing list and task list of all the things you need to bring and do. Need to bring the dogs to the kennel? Call the kennel and make a reservation. Need to renew your passport? That goes on the list too. You get the idea. Write it all down so it’s in one place.
6) Event Planning
Planning a milestone birthday party? There are a lot of moving parts. You need a venue, a guest list, invitations, decorations, food, maybe transportation, etc. etc. Put it all in your Bullet Journal and get it out of your head.
7) Gift Lists
Holiday gifts, birthdays, anniversaries, “just because” gifts all have a place in your Journal. When you get a great idea for a gift for someone, write it in that section. Then when it comes time to buy it you won’t have to remember what you wanted to get. When doing your holiday shopping, write down everyone you’re buying for and record what you buy as you get it. No more forgotten purchase and overbuying!
8) Product Launch Planning
Product launches are a ton of work, and there are tons of details to keep track of. In your Journal, record the product info, your launch dates, tasks to complete, your marketing plan, which team members are responsible for each task, relevant pages on your website, your purchase links, etc. Then you have a master plan that you can duplicate for the next time.
9) Tracking Business Performance
To quote Marcus Lemonis, “You’ve gotta know your numbers”. I have a simple page layout for each month that I call the Dashboard. This is where I record my top monthly goals along with my business revenue, expenses, profit, which products/services sold and how much for each, my social media metrics (# of followers and comparison to prior month), and how I felt about the month. I also include what went well and what didn’t go so well, so I can improve. This doesn’t replace my accounting program at all. It’s just a quick glance and it’s helpful to look back and see my progress this way.
10) Bill Tracking
Another quick-glance tool is to make a grid on a page. In the left-hand column, list all your monthly bills, and the date they are due. Along the top, write each month, so you have a column for each month of the year. When you pay a bill, put a checkmark in the box, or write the amount you paid if it differs from the regular monthly payment. Never miss a bill again.
11) Pet Care Records
I’m the worst at remembering when my dogs are due for their shots, when I gave them their flea medicine, etc. I’m lucky to have a great vet that sends me reminders for shots,, but I still have to keep track of medicines, when they got their nails clipped, etc. Keeping a page in the journal that records all those things makes it easy to remember.
12) Shopping Lists
Put your master grocery list in your Bullet Journal, along with any other shopping lists you draw from regularly, and you won’t have to struggle to remember what to buy. It’s much easier to read through a list and write down what you need, rather than relying on memory.
13) Food Tracker
On a special diet? Tracking calories, carbs, sugar, etc.? Writing down everything that you put in your mouth is the only effective way to track your eating. You can even make this a grid like the bill tracker. The column on the left is what you ate, then you could have columns for all the nutritional values you want to keep an eye on. Go a step further and make a column for why you ate it and how you felt after, if emotional eating is a challenge.
14) Exercise Tracker / Training Journal
I have a goal to run a half marathon later this year, and in order to be ready for it, I need to train regularly. So I’ve written down my training program on one page, and on the next pages I record the dates I trained and how I felt. It keeps me on track because without it, I’d never succeed.
15) Creating a Vision for Your Business and Your Life
Think of this as a vision board, Bullet Journal style. Set aside a few pages and allow yourself to dream big. A year from now (or 3 years, 5 years, etc), what will your life look like? What are you doing for work? Where do you live? How many days a week do you work? Do you have a team? What’s your ideal day look like? Write it all down, doodle and draw if you want to, and revisit it 6 months from now to see how your vision is becoming reality.
16) Recording Personal and Professional Goals
Once you’ve created your vision, you’ll want to set some goals. If you want to travel and work remotely, what needs to happen first? If you want to have a million-dollar company, how will you get there? Set SMART goals and chip away a little at a time. If you don’t write it down, it won’t happen.
17) Blog Editorial Calendar
Plan ahead and make your blogging easier. You can make a grid, a list of topics and dates, add your title, date published, links you used, etc. Whatever info will help you keep track better – include it all here.
18) Cheat Sheets
I love cheat sheets, and I have at least one page in my Bullet Journal for this purpose. I include keyboard shortcuts, links I send to people frequently, pricing info, account info, etc. Include whatever you need here for a quick reference.
19) Important Dates
Along with the cheat sheet, you might want a page for important dates you don’t want to forget – like birthdays, anniversaries, work anniversaries, etc.
20) Date-Specific Reminders
Here’s where to record when you change the batteries in your smoke alarms, get the oil changed in your car, when was the last time you cleaned out the fridge, the deadline for filing your business renewal paperwork, when your estimated taxes are due and how much you need to pay, etc.
This list just scratches the surface of all the ways you can use a Bullet Journal to organize your life. It’s easy to get started. Visit the Bullet Journal website to see how the system is intended to be used and then customize it however you like. Don’t get carried away trying to make it pretty. Keep it SIMPLE.
I use a simple dot grid Moleskine notebook because it’s portable, yet big enough for me to write in, and I like the soft cover vs. a hard cover. There are no rules, and you can change your mind at any time. Experiment and see what works for you!